Derek Brunson ruined Edmen Shahbazyan’s perfect record, defeating him in the main event of the UFC on ESPN+ 30. Brunson would win via TKO in the 26th second of the third round.
“All the people on social media, minus-300 underdog, so many people against me,” Brunson (21-6 MMA, 12-4 UFC) said during the interview. “Coach Henri Hooft believes in me, ‘You’re not a gatekeeper, show him you want the title.’”
According to the oddsmakers, this is the biggest upset in the last couple of years, with Brunson’s win being set at +290 before the battle.
Shahbazyan (11-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC), one of the rising stars of the middleweight division, came into this event without a single defeat in his career. He was already seen as one of the possible title contenders in the near future, yet after this match, it is obvious that he doesn’t have what it takes to compete with be biggest names in the division.
The 22-year old was physically inferior in the octagon, without stamina and aggressiveness, not counting the opening few minutes of the fight.
Shahbazyan attacked Burnson with all of his power right after the start, and he even inflicted several tough punches and one knee. The older fighter responded and rebuffed the initial surge, and as time went by, he started to dictate the pace and the tempo inside the octagon.
The second saw Brunson initiating some wrestling, and took too much energy from Shahbazyan. The veteran noticed that his rival lost the edge, and especially his breath, which is why he began to turn up the heat. As a result, Burnson managed to score a takedown against the young fighter, before delivering massive ground-and-pound elbows, which severely damaged Shahbazyan. Fortunately, the end of the round saved him.
Brunson continued in the same manner right from the start of the third round, and pretty soon he reached the same position, only this time there was no belt for the end of the round, and the referee Herb Dean had to intervene.
“I cracked him with a big elbow [at the end of the second round] and heard Coach Hooft saying, ‘Two more elbows,'” Brunson said. “I cracked him with another and thought the referee was going to stop it right there. He didn’t. I got my composure back and listened to my corner.”
Burnson often mentioned his coach, Hooft, after the fight. The reason for that, are his three straight wins since he started training at Sanford MMA under Hooft’s supervision. He stated that the only person who believed in him was his coach and that he deserves a lot of credit because of that.
Previously, the veteran American lost two straight, against Israel Adesanya and Jacare Souza. At that time, many believed that he wouldn’t be able to bounce back, but it seems that such statements were only fuel for the 36-year old.
He will most definitely receive a chance to fight with some of the division’s biggest names. Dana White spoke highly of him and his performances after the fight last night, which might suggest such a scenario. It wouldn’t be odd to see him in a title eliminator, but that is up to the UFC to decide.
As for Shahbazyan, he will have to dig deep after this loss. The defeat itself isn’t problematic, but the way Brunson trashed him is. Right now he has two paths from here – one is to learn and evolve, and the other is to find himself stuck in the mediocrity.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.